I have heard it said a thousand times, “I just wish a parent understood where we are coming from.” It’s a true statement though. I believe I can safely say that anyone who has coached any sport has had that thought at least once. Why is it that we say that, but never actually take the time to allow them to understand? Have you ever attempted to break it down to them? If not, feel free to print this out, leave my personal email address and let me take care of this.

Parents, you should know this sport requires dedication. The majority of the athletes rely on you to get them where they need to be, to pay for the things they need and to relay information that is valuable to them. Cheerleading is a team sport and lucky for you, the moment you signed your offspring up, you became part of the team as well! Congratulations! Welcome to the team.

Why are we so strict on lateness?

As I stated, cheerleading is a team sport. No, it is NOT like any other sport. Each cheerleader is one piece of a giant puzzle. Without that piece, the puzzle is not–and cannot be–complete. If they’re late, time is being taken away from the people who showed up on time. That could have been an additional 20 minutes that the stunt needed to finally get it to work properly and beautifully. If you run late on an occasion, fine. A heads-up can make a world of difference. If you are constantly running late, well I just don’t know what to say. When I am late, it causes my entire day to be ruined. Perhaps you should write a counter-piece explaining to me why and how you are okay with always being late, because I just don’t get it. (Coaches, you could always tell these parents an earlier time; I started doing it and it works wonderfully.)

Why are we so strict on absences?

We can’t just sub someone out and still have it together. It just doesn’t work that way. We don’t have starters or others who sit on the bench. We don’t have an understudy who learns each part of a two minute and thirty second routine. If they are not there, well you just took away a valuable puzzle piece. “Susie was sick though, Coach Brittany.” Listen. We are not asking for them to tumble or to jump around and risk throwing up. We are asking that they just show up. Take some Tylenol, come in pajamas, bring a blanket and a pillow and just be there. If your cheerleader can lay on the couch, Snapchatting on their phone ‘#feelslikedeath #bingewatchingnetflix’, then they can sit at practice and see what is being taught. Most coaches have a plan of action. An unexpected absence throws a wrench into that. If the reason is valid, it is valid and the coach will understand. Missing a competition. Ugh. This literally just hurts my soul. It’s impossible. Unless it is an extreme emergency, there is just no excuse for your cheerleader to ever miss a competition without giving your coach ample notice to work around it. Attendance policies are not just in place for our amusement; they’re meant for the best of the team and your cheerleader. Lack of dedication and lack of showing up can create some serious tension between the team. It’s something we hate when it happens, but we unfortunately understand why it does. Most of us coaches volunteer our time to be there with your cheerleader and their team. Other parents volunteer their time to get their cheerleader to practices and competitions. If you are serious about this sport, you will find a way.

Why do you have to switch the routine when a cheerleader can’t compete?

Again, cheerleading is not like other sports. We don’t have back-ups to just throw in there for a one-time purpose. It wouldn’t be fair to those girls who are there day in and day out hoping for a chance to be on the team permanently. Is there a chance your cheerleader will lose their spot? Honestly, yes. If we rework the routine because we have to, everything falls into place better and they perform ridiculously better than your cheerleader did, they can and will lose their spot. It’s not a sport for favoritism. It’s not out of spite–it’s what is always best for the team. The show must go on.

Why do you constantly make changes?

Did you ever take notice to the table or stage that the cheerleaders are facing when they are on the cheerleading mat? No? Take a look. There are people there. Those people are called ‘judges’. They hold the fate of our team in their hands. We cater to what they want, just as you would do if you were to receive a quarterly review from your boss. If we were to leave things in that were less than perfect, we aren’t doing our job. We aren’t doing what is best for those girls to set them up for disappointment when it could have been avoided. Plus, think on the bright side: it meant that your cheerleader progressed, and is able to learn new and harder skills.

What is on the score sheets? “But, those scores look good to me!”

HA HA! You want to learn about score sheets? How to read and translate the cheer language that the judges speak? Great, do you have a month for me to teach you? We are judged on so many different categories and subcategories. Those categories have guidelines and rules. You need four different skills, two elite in order to receive a ‘higher’ end score on that score sheet. There’s just too much to teach, I am sorry. Those who glance and go, “oh, that 9.3 looks good to me.” You are not looking at it right. You see that 9.3 out of 10. In your head, it is 1-10. Your head is wrong. That 9.3 is honestly a .3 out of a max score of 1. Not looking hot now is it, Nancy?

We aren’t mean–well, most of us aren’t. What you see is being mean is us pushing: pushing your child out of their comfort zone so that they can reach the potential we know they are able to reach. It is not mean that I do not lie to them and tell them they looked absolutely amazing when the truth is they were a 3 out of 10. That’s called honesty. It’s genuine. Me not lying will have them knowing when they did do amazing, and trust me, it will mean more to them than me saying “great job” when I did not mean it.

We, as coaches, wish parents understood. Yet, parents will never be able to fully understand. You can’t explain your feelings, your bond or your emotions. Saying and explaining certain areas of our world is hard, but can be done. Parents actually grasping those words and fully understanding them is another thing. It goes through one ear and flows out the other, because it’s not something they deal with on an everyday basis. What we can do is try. Remember that parents don’t know the ins and outs, and have a bit of patience with them. Be honest and open. Parents, please do the same. Take a moment and step outside of the parent role, and put yourself in our shoes. If you don’t get it, ask. If you’re mad at how we act or at something we do because you don’t fully understand, why don’t you give yourself 24 hours to calm down and come to us? If you are just going to nag and complain, expect the same treatment you give us. You know, where it goes through one ear and right out the other? We may nod, but trust me, it’s not sinking in.

Cheer coaches, how do you break it down for parents? Let us know in the comments!